Best Rifle Scopes Under $500 [UPDATED]

by Dave Chesson

May 19, 2023



When it comes to choosing a rifle scope, there are a lot of options, plus some major price differences. As I’ve told many new shooters in the industry through, just because it is more expensive, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better, nor does it mean that it is the best scope for you. As you will find out, you can absolutely find a great piece of glass that will fit your needs, without breaking the bank.

Now, I’ll admit, I think when you look at scopes, I think there are three major price points to consider: under 500, under 1000, and under 5000. If you’re looking for something greater than that, then you’re probably an expert/professional, and probably know what you want.

So, for those of you looking for a great scope but want to stay under 500, here is my personal list of the best rifle scopes under 500 dollars.  

What Do You Need a $500 Scope for? 

Before we get into the list though, let’s take a second and discuss what you are getting this scope for. The use of the scope can have a major difference in which scope is best for you

Hunting – With 500 dollars, you can get an extremely well-made optic that delivers that low light performance you need when hunting. Most hunting is done as the sun rises and the sunsets. This makes a bright and clear optic quite important, especially when a deer blends in so well with the fall-colored leaves. At this price point, you can get a solid variable optic or a rock-solid red dot. Plus, at this price point, the optic will shrug off the rough environment of the hunting grounds to fight off moisture, bumps, falls, and the like. 

Home Defense – Home defense optics are dominated by red dots and holographic optics, and with 500 dollars, you can be armed and ready with a very competent reflex sight. This includes the famed name brands you’ve heard of like Aimpoint. Five hundred bucks for home defense will ensure you have an optic that’s good to go for home defense. One you can truly trust your life to. 

Competition – Competition is a fairly vague term because all sorts of competitive shooting exist. This includes action shooting sports like 3-Gun all the way out to long-range marksmanship. For action sports like 3-Gun, 2-Gun, USPSA PCC, and PCC steel challenge, then 500 bucks is more than enough to get you a well-made and ready-for-action optic. 

Long-range shooting – 500 bucks isn’t quite enough to get you the optics necessary to compete. If you are shooting PRS (precision rifle series), then five hundred bucks simply isn’t enough to spend on a scope. You should probably look into at least the scopes for 1000 yards or more.

Duty – Yesish. Depending on what kind of optic you want, then 500 bucks might be enough. If you want a red dot or even a prism, 500 bucks will get you a very capable and durable optic that will be reliable when lives depend on it. For magnified optics like an LPVO, then it’s simply not enough cash to produce a high-end optic capable of surviving the rough and tumble life of a duty optic. 

Defining the Many Different Optic’s Types 

Now that we covered the different uses for the scope, let’s move into a basic run-down of the various types of optics on the market and what you can expect from a 500 dollar variant of that category. 

Reflex Sights – Reflex sights include red dots and holographic sights. These optics gain their name from their ability to get you quickly on target. Put the dot on the target and press the trigger. It’s that simple. They use simple reticles and do not have magnification. They work well from 0 to 200 yards or so. They can be used with separate magnifiers to increase their effective range as well. 

For 500 bucks, you should be able to get a duty-worthy red dot. It might not have super fancy features like a BDC turret or great night vision capability. At 500 bucks, it will be clear, tough, and very capable for duty and home defense tasks. 

Variable – Variable optics are what most picture when we talk about rifle scopes. They have a range of magnification settings that a user can transition through. They can provide anywhere from 2-7X to 8-64X and beyond. These optics are popular for hunting, general marksmanship, and precision rifle competition. 

For 500 bucks, you can get a solid optic at the lower magnification ratings. Getting a quality optic with a high level of magnification takes a good bit more than 500 dollars. You can get a very competent optic for hunting or shooting out to 600 yards or so. 

LPVOs – LPVO stands for low-powered variable optic, and like variable optics, these things allow you to run through a variety of magnification settings. However, with LPVOs, the magnification starts at 1X and goes to 10X or so. These are typically utilized on tactical rifles and are beloved for their versatility. They can be used easily at close range and out to the max range of most semi-auto rifles. 

At the 500 dollar mark, you are getting into some decent options. I wouldn’t quite call them duty ready, but for competitive use or hunting, they will work very well. They tend to be durable and clear. It’s tough to get anything in the 1-10X range at this price point, but you can get a great 1-4X or a solid 1-6x or 1-8x LPVO. 

Prism – Prisms, or prismatic, optics are typically low-powered optics that are a fixed magnification. They can be slightly larger than a red dot but much smaller than a variable optic. With a smaller size, you often get a lighter overall weight. These optics can be a 1X model that will work like a red dot but help those with astigmatism. The upper limits of magnification are around 5X. 

Now, there are other types of scopes out there, but for the purposes of this article, these are the main ones. And at 500 bucks, you can’t get an ACOG, or a thermal scope but you can get a very nice optic at this price point. I would say at 500 bucks, you can get a duty-ready prismatic optic at the 5X range, but 3X and 4X models might be a bit better for versatility purposes. 

Best Rifle Scope Under $500 Dollars

Okay, so now that we covered some of the different uses and types of scopes and things that help to differentiate them, here is our list of the top rifle scopes that cost less than $500. Again, keep in mind that you might need a red dot over a full on scope:

Best Rifle Scope Under 500 Dollars

Primary Arms SLX 1-8X24 FFP
  • First Focal Plane Optic
  • Versatile Design
  • 5.56/308 Reticle
Check Price
Vortex Optics Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x
  • Prism Optic
  • Superbly Compact
  • Fixed 5X Magnification
Check Price
Aimpoint Pro
  • Red Dot design
  • 2 MOA Reticle
  • Out of the Box Ready
Check Price
Holosun AEMS 
  • Compact Red Dot
  • Proprietary Mount
  • Multiple Reticles
Check Price
Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X36 
  • Variable Optic
  • Duplex Reticle
  • Superbly Clear
Check Price
EOTech 512 
  • Holographic Optic
  • Integral Mount
  • -0 Reticle
Check Price
Trijicon RMR Type 2 
  • Micro Red Dot
  • Perfect Backup Optic
  • Superbly Popular
Check Price

Generally speaking, the best scopes under $500 are:

  1. Primary Arms SLX 1-8X24 FFP
  2. Vortex Optics Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x 
  3. Aimpoint Pro 
  4. Holosun AEMS
  5. Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X36
  6. EOTech 512
  7. Trijicon RMR Type 2 

You really can’t go wrong with these.

Best Rifle Scopes Under 500 Dollars Spec Comparison

It’s always good to line up our options side by side to get a good sense how these optics differ. Below we’ve done just that.

ScopeMagnificationObjective LensTube DiameterEye ReliefWeight
Primary Arms SLX 1-8X24 FFP1-8X24mm30mm3.2 inches17.9 ounces
Vortex Optics Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x5X25mmNA2.7 inches10.3 ounces
Aimpoint PRO1XNANAUnlimited11.6 ounces
Holosun AEMS1XNANAUnlimited3.9 ounces
Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X362.5-8X36mm1 inch3.6 inches11.9 ounces
EOTech 5121XNANAUnlimited11.1 ounces
Trijicon RMR Type 21XNANAUnlimited1.17 ounces

Best Rifle Scope Under 500 Dollars Reviews 

Now that we covered the list of scopes under 500, let us dive into the individual reviews of each of our chosen scopes. We’ll explore why we chose these scopes, the pros and cons as well as looking at the price.

SLX 1-8X24 FFP Specs

  • Magnification 1-8X
  • Objective Lens 24mm
  • Tube Diameter 30mm
  • Eye Relief 3.2 inches
  • Weight 17.9 ounces

Primary Arms SLX 1-8X Review

I personally believe that Primary Arms knows how to make budget optics not be rubbish. They found a way to combine price savings with well-made, high-quality optics in various configurations. And out of them all, I think the SLX 1-8X provides you with a very competent rifle scope with a first focal plane design. The ACSS Raptor reticle rocks and the FFP configuration ensures it is accurate throughout the entire magnification range. 

1-8X provides a very versatile magnification range that’s a fair bit on the high side for an LPVO. At this price point, it might be the very best option out there for an LPVO. The ACSS Raptor reticle provides built-in holdovers for the 5.56, 308, and 5.45 rounds to make long-range shots fairly easy with most rifles. This optic is at home on a bolt action rifle, a semi-auto rifle, and anything else you improve via an optic. 

The illuminated reticle provides 11 different brightness settings that work surprisingly well in bright daylight. The big reticle is bright and clear and very simple to use at long range, and useful enough for moderate range shooting. LPVOs rock, and if that’s the route you wanna walk, the SLX 1-8X FFP is a great choice at the 500 dollar budget. 

So, because of how well made the PA SLX 1-8x is, it’s quality optics in different variations and it’s price point, I believe this is the best all-round scope for under $500 and an excellent starter scope too, if this is your first one.

Primary Arms SLX 1-8X24 FFP Pros and Cons

  • Versatile magnification range
  • Awesome Reticle
  • Daylight Bright
  • BDC limits its use to 5.56, 308, and 5.45 rifles

Primary Arms SLX 1-8X24 FFP Deals

Vortex Optics Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x Specs

  • Magnification 5X
  • Objective Lens 25mm
  • Tube Diameter NA
  • Eye Relief 2.7 inches
  • Weight 10.3 ounces 

Vortex Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x Review

I’m a bit biased with my prism optic. Prismatic optics strike a good balance between small size and potent power. The latest from Vortex, the Spitfire HD Gen 2, is a five-powered optic that delivers a lot of power in a very small package. This five-power optic is roughly the same size as a full-sized red dot and weighs just about the same. 

The Spitfire Gen 2 features an illuminated BDC-type reticle primed for AR 15s but can be modified for various holdovers as long as you know your dope. I really love how Vortex includes both high and low mounts (something not all scope companies will do for this type of product), so the optic works with basically any gun and is compatible with Aimpoint Micro mounts. The view through the optic is surprisingly clear, and you can see some outstanding detail with a vivid HD picture. 

The Spitfire HD Gen 2 even allows you to mount a mini red dot to the top of the optic for an extreme close quarters option. The Spitfire HD Gen 2 allows you to have a moderate range optic that’s very small and very lightweight. 

I’m really listing this as the best high-end red dot under $500. It really is a solid choice, although I’m sure some out there are going to disagree, and push for the #3 below as the best…let’s find out.

Vortex Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x Pros and Cons

  • The most compact 5X optic out there
  • Clear and Consistent
  • Versatile with a mini red dot attachment
  • Learning to shoot CQB with a prism is tricky.

Vortex Spitfire HD Gen 2 5x Deals

Aimpoint PRO Specs

  • Magnification 1X
  • Objective Lens NA
  • Tube Diameter NA
  • Eye Relief Unlimited
  • Weight 11.6 ounces

Aimpoint PRO Review

The Aimpoint PRO, or Patrol Rifle Optic, was Aimpoint’s answer to a budget grade red dot that’s still a duty grade optic. The Aimpoint PRO doesn’t shake off any features to provide a competent, affordable optic. I personally love how this includes 4-night vision settings on top of 6 daylight settings. It’s a pure rifle optic with a 2 MOA dot that’s perfect for rifle ranges near and far. 

The PRO comes ready out of the box for action with the Aimpoint QPR2 mount and a spacer for raising or lowering the optic’s height. So, when it came time to attach this, I had absolutely no problem.

Admittedly it works best on AR 15s but can be adapted to numerous platforms. The PRO is submersible to 150 feet, and like all Aimpoints, it’s super durable and well made. It’s up for the rigors of duty and would be perfect in a cop car or at the bedside for home defense. 

The Aimpoint PRO provides a very competent red dot for less than 500 bucks. It’s impressive that Aimpoint addressed an often ignored market and provides a premium optic at a great price. The PRO might be fancy, but it’s completely capable. 

One issue I have with the Aimpoint PRO is that it uses an uncommon DL 1/3N battery. Luckily it comes with one, and that should last you years before needing to replace it. I just don’t like the fact that when that happens, I’ll have to do a special order to get it. I actually like Aimpoint fixed this by using regular batteries with their COMPM4 (my go-to on my X95) and one of my favorites – but it can’t make this list since it comes in at ~$999.

So, you might be asking why would I list this as the #2 red dot on this list? Many might disagree, and I get that, but I personally like the optics better on the Vortex. And while the Aimpoint has some neat features like submergibility, it’s not that important to me since when will I be submersing my scope in 150 feet of water. They are both comparable in price (plus or minus $15), so if that changed, I would probably change the rankings in this.

Aimpoint PRO Pros and Cons

  • 3-year battery life
  • Incredibly Durable
  • Out of the Box Ready
  • Uses Uncommon DL 1/3N Battery

Aimpoint PRO Deals

Holosun AEMS Specs

  • Magnification 1x
  • Objective Lens NA
  • Tube Diameter NA
  • Eye Relief Unlimited
  • Weight 3.9 ounces

Holosun AEMS Specs Review

The Holosun AEMS is a rather new optic that’s made quite the splash for Holosun. Holosun made the AEMS one of the most efficient compact red dots on the market. While it’s smaller and lighter than the majority of optics, it provides a huge viewing window. It matches the optics like the Aimpoint Micro in overall size but provides a larger window that provides a heads-up display for shooters looking to maximize efficiency. 

The Holosun AEMS delivers a lot of the features people love about Holosun. This includes the multi reticle system that allows you to pick a 2 MOA dot, a 65 MOA circle, or a combination of the two.

On top of the optic sits a solar panel to give you a backup power source for easy use. However, I’ll admit, this is a bit of a gimmick. Sure, that might give it a bit of an advantage if you’re in the appocolypse or you are building a SHTF gun. However, it doesn’t provide as much as you’d think.

The AEMS packs in two huge buttons for easy controls and allows for on-the-fly brightness adjustment. 

Holosun designed the AEMS with some modularity in mind. It does use a proprietary footprint for mounts, but Holosun promises to release a multitude of mounts. Additionally, the optic comes with two clear scope covers that are user-replaceable and provide an entirely due level of protection to your optic’s lenses.

Now, I get that the mount should be fixed, but still, I don’t like that Holosun has its own proprietary mount. This is just unnecessary complexity to something that shouldn’t be.  

Finally, one great thing about this is it’s price. For all of the rifle red dot options on this list, it is the cheapest. There are much cheaper red dot scopes on the market, but at about this point, their legitimacy and durability starts to degrade rapidly.

So, why list this as the #3 red dot on the list? Well, it is the cheapest, but only by about $50. Plus, I don’t think it is a great as the Vortex or the Aimpoint, and I’d personally rather pay the extra $50 and have a better red dot. Now, if you can find one that is say $350 or less, then I think that would be a great deal and this would rise in my rankings.

Holosun AEMS Pros and Cons

  • Solar Panel 
  • Multiple reticles
  • Efficient size design
  • Proprietary mount

Holosun AEMS Deals

Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X36 Specs

  • Magnification 2.5-8X
  • Objective Lens 36mm
  • Tube Diameter 1 inch
  • Eye Relief 3.6 inches
  • Weight 11.9 ounces 

Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X36 Review

Leupold is a classic American optic manufacturer, and they’ve been producing high-end optic options for decades now. This includes police and military forces, most famously Marine Scout/Snipers utilized Leupold optics for decades. For under 500 bucks, it’s tough to beat the VX-3HD 2.5-8X36 optic in the variable department. 

For those looking to reach a little further than most with outstanding clarity and hard-to-beat durability, the VX-3HD has you more than covered. The view through the lens is incredibly clear and provides a bright and vivid sight picture occupied by a very simple duplex reticle. The glass clarity is about as good as it gets at this price point. The sight picture is maintained from edge to edge, and the field of view is an impressive 27.5 at the low setting and 13.7 at the high. 

The variable magnification gets you out and on target and provides a versatile adjustment range for targets near and far. It’s perfect for a hunting rifle in most of the United States and provides the clarity you need in low-light situations. Leupold makes damn fine optics, and this is no exception. It’s durable and rugged, ready for the abuse of the field, the truck, and the hunting camp. 

So, let’s break this down, the Primary Arms took my first place because of its price and capability. And while this Leupold is excellent quality for the price, it’s the most expensive one on this list, and barely makes it below the $500 threshold. Plus, I’m not a fan of the reticle considering this is an area they couldn’t easily improved on, without increasing the cost. So, it gets a close second on my rifle scope listing.

Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X36 Pros and Cons

  • Incredibly clear
  • Lightweight
  • Great Eye Relief
  • Very plain reticle

Leupold VX-3HD 2.5-8X36 Deals

EOTech 512 Specs

  • Magnification 1X
  • Objective Lens NA
  • Tube Diameter NA
  • Eye Relief Unlimited 
  • Weight 11.1 ounces

EOTech 512 Review

The EOTech brand made holographic optics a real thing. Holographic optics differ from red dots and provide a more durable optic that works even with a destroyed lens. Additionally, the reticle is always super clear and typically easier to use when you have astigmatism. EOTech dominates the technology, and the 512 is one of the few models in their inventory available for less than 500 bucks. 

It’s an older model, but it’s still a competent optic for duty or home defense. It’s fairly large, but it’s still a very easy-to-use optic. The 512 packs the famed 68 MOA circle 1 MOA dot reticle that’s super easy to use. Fill the target with the ring at close range and pull the trigger. In a super close range situation, the bottom stadia can be used to compensate for height over bore, and the reticle can even be used as a range finder. 

And while the EOTech 512 comes with twenty brightness settings that include 10-night vision settings for all you goons out there, I only really found a couple of settings that are useful. It’s either too bright or too low for use.

EOTech ensures it’s insanely durable with a submersible rating of 10 feet, and one solid ⅛ inch glass front window, and a 3/16 inch thick glass laminate rear window. It can take a beating for sure. 

At first, I really thought this was going to be a gimmicky optic. It is heavy and costly. However, I really loved using this on my TS-12. I don’t recommend using this on something like a AR15, but it definitely is a preferred for shotguns, other something where you’re carrying a bulky frame.

EOTech 512 Pros and Cons

  • Holographic technology
  • Tons of brightness settings
  • Ambi controls
  • Somewhat large

EOTech 512 Deals

Trijicon RMR Type 2 Specs

  • Magnification 1X
  • Objective Lens NA
  • Tube Diameter NA
  • Eye Relief Unlimited
  • Weight 1.17 ounces

Trijicon RMR Type 2 Review

I included the Trijicon RMR Type 2 not as a primary rifle scope but as a secondary for a prism, an LPVO, and a variable optic. The Trijicon RMR Type 2 is a micro red dot that’s small enough to be mounted on a pistol optic. On special mounts, it allows shooters with magnified optics to have an offset red dot for quick reflexive shots at close range targets. 

This setup ensures that you can engage at close range and have a built-in secondary sight option in case your primary goes down. The Trijicon RMR Type 2 allows you to use a variety of different dot sizes, and I’d prefer a smaller 3.25 MOA dot for this secondary role. 

The RMR Type 2 set the standard for micro red dots and is easily one of the most durable sights known to man. It’s super easy to use and makes snapping on target quick and easy. You’d never think this little optic could do what it does, but here we are, and it earned a place on this list for a reason.

This is absolutely the best pistol red dot and one of the industry favorites. If anyone asks me what pistol red dot they should get, I almost always recommend this first. It’s incredible quality, although a little expensive, but well worth it. Otherwise, you can also attach it to smaller rifles like a 2lr as well.

Trijicon RMR Type 2 Pros and Cons

  • Superbly small
  • Incredibly durable
  • Easy to use
  • Works well as a backup only a rifle. 

Trijicon RMR Type 2 Deals

Best Rifle Scopes Under 500 Dollars – Buyers Guide

We’ve gone through a lot of information so far, I’ve told you what I think are the best optics on the market for under 500 bucks, but I also want to give you a little more advice. Experienced shooters might be able to disregard this portion, but if you are new, let’s talk about optics in general. Let’s define some terms, cover expectations, and prepare you to optics shop. 

What To Expect From With a 500 Dollar Budget 

Durability – These optics should be able to be submerged in water and shrug it off like a duck. They should also be capable of taking some minor spills, absorbing recoil for magnum calibers, and holding zero. At this price point, they should be single-piece tubes as well. 

Focal Plane – At 500 bucks, we can start to see some entry into the world of first focal plane scopes. For LPVOs and higher magnified variable optics, a first focal plane makes the reticle much handier than an SFP. For lower range, LPVOs, and variable optics, SFP isn’t a bad thing. 

Clarity – You should be getting your feet wet with decently clear glass at this price point as well. The lower the magnification rating and the higher the price likely indicates better glass. A 1-4X at 500 likely has better glass than a 1-8X at 500 bucks. However, at this price point, you should be able to see in vivid HD with clear colors and a consistent edge-to-edge image. 

Daylight Bright Illumination – At 500 bucks, my prism and LPVO sights should provide daylight bright illumination. This isn’t an issue with dots or holographic, but lower-end prisms and variable optics tend to have dim illumination that isn’t eye-catching during the day. I want to be able to see that big beautiful reticle in red or green when I spend 500 bucks. 

Good Turrets – Turrets make your adjustments, and at this price point, I want turrets with clicks that are audible and tactile. I also want precise adjustments. If the click says .5 MOA, it better be .5 MOA and not .53 MOA. I want that precision, and you should expect it at this price point. 

500 Bucks, Bones, or Dinero 

Five hundred dollars is a sweet spot for purchasing optics, and at that price point, it’s not tough to get a nice optic by any means. You can find a good quality optic for most roles at 500 dollars, but you shouldn’t risk spending 500 on a long-range optic. Those should be a fair bit pricer. However, for the rest of us, 500 is a great budget to start with. 


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About Dave Chesson

Dave Chesson is prior Navy with a specialty in international arms dealing for the US government across multiple countries. Having traveled the world and abided by ATF and ITAR, Roy has a unique background in legal as well as practical capabilities of weapons deployment and use.

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